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WVU’s Holgorsen feels Big 12 gaining national respect

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen calls a timeout during the first half of an NCAA college football game against East Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia won 56-20. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

Respect was the topic of Monday’s Big 12 teleconference segment involving WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen.

Showing respect for upcoming Mountaineer opponent Delaware State, that is.

Also, the weekend’s gains in respect for West Virginia’s league were discussed.

In a very short (3 minutes and 36 seconds) appearance on the call because of a lack of questions, Holgorsen was asked about Oklahoma’s 31-16 victory at Ohio State and TCU’s 28-7 win over Arkansas in Fayetteville.

“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” he said. “I don’t know how the perception is about the Big 12. We do have [four] teams in the Top 25.”

Oklahoma is now No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25, while Oklahoma State is No. 9, Kansas State is No. 18 and TCU is No. 20. WVU is fourth in “others receiving votes.” In the coaches poll, WVU is first there.

“I think the Big 12 has good football,” Holgorsen said. “We unfortunately didn’t win our first one, but it was against a Top 15 team [in Virginia Tech]. I just think it’s good to have those matchups though. If you want respectability and want to get in the discussion for the CFP, you have to win all those games. Glad the Big 12 got a couple of those wins last week.”

The 1-1 Mountaineers, however, won’t be playing a marquee team at noon Saturday. Delaware State will visit Milan Puskar Stadium at 0-2 after losing every game last season. The Hornets of the Football Championship Subdivision’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference were picked by the coaches to finish last among the league’s 11 teams.

“We respect every opponent we play, I don’t care who it is,” Holgorsen said. “We approach it the same way. We practice the same way. Sometimes you have to use different motivational tactics than other times. That’s just part of our profession in getting ready for games.”

Holgorsen said this week would be spent trying to get the Mountaineers better.

“There are plenty of things we can improve on, which is good news,” he said.

There are certainly areas ripe for improvement. One, however, isn’t the offense, which is ranked No. 6 nationally by the NCAA this week.

After rolling up 619 total yards in a 56-20 wipeout of East Carolina last Saturday, West Virginia is averaging 605.5 per game.

Mountaineer quarterback Will Grier is the nation’s No. 9 passer, averaging 361.5 yards, which is above fine Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. Receivers David Sills and Gary Jennings are Nos. 10 and 14, respectively, in receiving yards per game at 123.5 and 117.5. Sills leads the nation with five TD receptions.

Overall, WVU is No. 9 in passing offense (387), No. 26 in passing efficiency (164.11), No. 33 in scoring (40) and No. 38 in rushing offense (218.5).

On defense and special teams, however, there is much room for improvement.

In scoring defense, West Virginia is ranked No. 72 after allowing 51 points in the first two games. The Mountaineers are No. 73 in pass efficiency defense. And in total defense the team is No. 112, allowing an average of 469.5 yards a game.

Kyzir White is tied at No. 3 nationally with a pair of interceptions. After Saturday’s game, though, WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson was upset and suggested changes, including starting freshman Kenny Robinson at cornerback, though when the depth chart was released Monday night, there were no changes.

As for the punting game, Mountaineer kicker Billy Kinney is ranked No. 80 nationally.

“Looking forward to practice [on Tuesday] to get out there and introduce our next opponent,” Holgorsen said. “You only get 12 in a year. So regardless of whom it is you have to approach it the same way.

“That’s always been our deal. It’s no different than how it’s been the last two weeks. Looking forward to getting out there, practicing and trying to improve on a lot of the things we need to improve on.”

Holgorsen said injured players Jacob Buccigrossi, Grant Lingafelter and David Long “are pretty much day-to-day [and are] coming along.

“I don’t know if [they will return] this week, next week or the week after that.”

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